Factors That Determine Whether a Crime is Tried at the State or Federal Level

Being accused of committing any crime can bring on feelings of anxiety and stress. Suddenly, you face an uncertain future, with the possibility of spending time behind bars. There are many factors that affect the exact offenses you are charged with, and you may wonder what it means if you have been charged with a federal crime. Criminal cases can be complex, so it is essential that you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation. Here is a brief overview of what factors may be used to determine whether you will be charged with a state or federal crime and what steps you should take in either case.

Understanding Federal Crime

A federal crime occurs when an individual violates federal legal codes or in instances when the criminal activity spans across more than one state. Common examples of federal crimes include drug trafficking, kidnapping, and commercial fraud. If the criminal action is aimed at a government entity, such as hacking a federally-owned computer or identity theft targeting a government official, the matter will be prosecuted in federal court. Acts of terrorism are also typically handled through the federal court system.

When Aggravated Factors are Involved

Sometimes, crimes like assault, which may typically be prosecuted at the state level, are elevated to a federal crime because they involve special circumstances. When a crime is considered to be aggravated, it is often because more violent actions, weapons, and other threats of danger present. State officials may initiate the prosecutorial process, and then determine to pass the case to federal court. If convicted, the perpetrator may face time in a federal prison and be stripped of their ability to hold a driver’s license, own a firearm, and other privileges. 

Getting the Help You Need

No matter what type of criminal charges you are facing, you need trusted and effective legal representation to ensure that your rights are upheld and your freedom is protected. If there is any possibility that you could be charged with a federal crime, make sure you work with an attorney who has a deep understanding of federal crimes and what to expect at every step of the process. Together, you and your attorney will determine the best course of action to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome given the circumstances of the case.


The Law Office of Adrienne D. Edward, P.C. serves clients in the Queens and greater New York City area as a criminal defense attorney. Call (347) 997-3811 today to get started.